A music production computer is your first step towards building your own home studio.
Good computers for audio production have never been more accessible.
Actually, when you are reading this text on your desktop or laptop, your machine probably has plenty of energy to get began with music.
However, when you do not even know where to start, choosing the right computer is difficult.
When you are buying or building a rig particularly for music there are some important factors to think about to get the best laptop or desktop computer for audio production.
In this article, we will lay out everything you should know to choose the right music production computer for your home studio.
To know this text you’ll need a little background in computer components. Your music computer is only as good as the sum of its parts.
Those parts have different specifications that lead to a different performance in your system.
The most important computer specifications for music production are:
- CPU speed and number of cores
- Memory (RAM)
- Storage (SSD or HDD)
We will walk you through each one in detail.
CPU stands for the central processing unit.
It’s the component where the fundamental operations of your computer take place.
CPU performance is measured by clock speed and number of cores.
Higher clock speed means quicker overall pace of the calculations performed by the CPU.
However, additional cores are also necessary. More CPU cores permit for better performance in applications that support multi-threading.
All major DAWs benefit from multi-threading, however, single-threaded performance is still necessary for audio.
The bottom line is that in terms of your CPU, the best advice is the get the processor with the most cores and the highest clock speed you could afford.
At a minimum, you need to be looking for a processor with at least two cores and clock speed no lower than 2.2 GHz.
Memory refers to your computer’s RAM specification.
RAM means random access memory. It’s the extremely quick working memory your computer uses to store info it needs right away.
In the early days of computing, RAM was extremely costly.
However, today’s computer parts are much more economical. It’s common to see RAM configurations of up to 64 GB and beyond in high-end builds.
Growing the amount of RAM available in your system will improve its performance—up to a point.
Despite how necessary RAM might seem, audio tasks are surprisingly forgiving on your system’s memory.
8 GB is plenty for the majority of music production processing.
16 or 32 GB could help when you plan to work with the big sample libraries which are needed to emulate acoustic instruments realistically.
However, think twice before you pay steep prices to max out your computer’s RAM.
Storage refers to your computer’s internal space for saving files and applications.
More is better, however, the speed issues as well.
Today’s solid-state drives (SSDs) are considerably quicker than conventional hard disks (HDDs).
Utilizing an SSD as the main OS and applications drive makes an enormous difference to the speed of startup and other read/write-intensive tasks.
However, when you use one, you will likely have to settle for less storage on your system volume—SSDs cost more per GB than HDDs.
Hot tip: In the past, it was considered greatest practice to track your audio files and sessions onto a separate drive.
This has become less of a concern with modern, however, it’s still a valid method to take some stress off your main system drive.
Think about using a quick external drive for your sessions and audio files.
Mac vs. PC
Before you begin particular builds or models you need to determine which computing platform is best for you.
Mac and PC are the two important types. There’s a dedicated community of Linux audio producers out there, however, Linux-based OS is much less common among newbies and professionals in terms of audio.
Mac vs. PC used to be an enormous debate in the pro audio community.
Many insist that the stability and smooth workflow of Mac OS is better for production, while others point to the affordability and simple upgrades of PC as a major benefit.
Today, the two platforms have similar architecture thanks to Intel processors. That means that there isn’t much that’s fundamentally different between them.
It also means you could compare the two types directly by looking at the specs of their components side by side.
Mac computers are nearly always costlier for the performance of their parts than their PC competitors.
But when the design, stability, and ease of use of the Mac platform are valued it to you, you may be willing to pay a little more.
However, when you are on a super tight budget, otherwise you merely need one of the best worth for cash, a Home windows-based PC could possibly be your most suitable option.
64-bit working system
It doesn’t matter what platform you select, it’s vital to be sure to use a 64-bit version of the OS for music production.
64-bit architecture has been around for a while, so there is no excuse at this point. All the major DAWs assist it and the performance advantages are considerable.
64-bit applications in a 64-bit environment could address much more of the available memory in your system.
That sounds complicated, however, all it means is that the 64-bit OS allows you to benefit from more of your computer’s resources—it’s a no brainer!
Laptop vs. Desktop
The overall strength of the components in your computer is limited by factors like size, power consumption and heat generation.
Desktop computers could accommodate bigger components and house energy supplies with enough juice to power them—all while dissipating heat more easily with fans and heatsinks.
In comparison, laptop computer designs should compromise on these components to attain their portability and small size.
That makes the desktop format the clear choice when speed and power are vital.
However, that’s not to say well-spec’d laptop isn’t a great choice for music production.
There are plenty of laptops with perfectly good performance for running your DAW and plugins. That’s great news when you want the portability to produce music on the go.
Use whichever kind suits your workflow, just ensure the base specs are within the acceptable range for music production.
Gaming PC for music production
Many PC brands offer high-end builds particularly optimized to run games on high settings.
Most gaming PCs are up to the task for music production, however, for most situations they are a bit over the top.
The high-end graphics cards and highly effective RAM configurations of most gaming PCs add extra cost which may not translate into better performance for music production.
When you already own a gaming PC you are all set with a good computer for music. But if not, do not feel like you should purchase one of these specialized rigs just run your DAW and some plugins.
AMD vs. Intel
AMD and Intel are the main CPU manufacturers. The 2 brands have been competing against each other for decades.
In the past, AMD was related to budget builds and offered slightly less performance at a more affordable price.
Today the two firms are mostly neck-and-neck in terms of performance for music production.
AMD has made an enormous splash with its Ryzen series of CPUs that perform exceptionally well in multi-threading applications at an impressively low cost.
But there’s been some debate in the pro audio community concerning their latency behavior at low buffer sizes in comparison to Intel chips.
There also might be some compatibility issues with AMD CPUs for some particular DAWs, including Pro Tools.
Lots of users report that Ryzen processors work fine in their system, however, Avid’s conservative guides don’t officially support them.
Think about an Intel-based machine if you wish to maximize compatibility.
Integrated graphics vs. GPU
Many inexpensive laptop and desktop computers bring prices down by utilizing integrated graphics in place of discrete GPUs.
Integrated graphics mean that the graphics processor is located on the same chip as the CPU.
This could save on space, heat output and overall cost, however, the trade-off in performance is considerable.
But a devoted GPU isn’t always vital for recording. The main graphical task your computer has to perform for audio production is rendering the UI of your DAW and plugins.
That isn’t a big enough challenge to require a high-performance discrete GPU. That said, any amount of strain you could take off your CPU will improve the number of tracks, plugins, and processes you could run once.
Opt for a discrete GPU if you should push the limits of your computer, however, don’t worry too much in case your system doesn’t include one.
Music production center
Purchasing a computer for music production seems complicated. There is lots of different factors to consider.
However, the price of a fast computer has never decreased. You could make great music with almost any decent machine, and that is encouraging.
Use this explainer to help you select the perfect music production computer for your setup.